LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A new initiative to help with vaccination efforts in Arkansas is getting backing from some heavy hitters in business and healthcare.
Vaccinate the Natural State, a new initiative led by Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield in collaboration with the Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care, Arkansas Minority Health Commission, Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas, Northwest Arkansas Council, UAMS and Walmart, was announced on Monday.
The statewide initiative will educate Arkansans about the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine and encourage individuals to get the vaccine as soon as possible – by doing so they will be taking a critical step toward helping end the pandemic.
“The health of our communities relies on every eligible Arkansan getting the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it becomes available to them,” said Curtis Barnett, president and chief executive officer of Arkansas Blue Cross. “Vaccinations offer our best path for eliminating the virus, ending the suffering, and starting the process of returning our lives back to some sense of normal.
The organizations that have come together to fuel this movement represent best-of-class knowledge coupled with connected networks that can ensure the word gets out that Vaccinate the Natural State can be life-changing for all of us.”
“Vaccinate the Natural State will address the misinformation that has left many hesitant, or unsure how or when they can be vaccinated,” said Jennifer Dillaha, M.D., state epidemiologist for Arkansas, Arkansas Department of Health. “We want Arkansans to understand that the vaccine is the safest, most effective way to protect themselves and their communities. We are appreciative that Arkansas Blue Cross stepped forward to help the state during the earliest rounds of the vaccinations and now has convened these organizations to create a movement that will have a lasting effect on our state.”
Vaccinate the Natural State is a combined effort from a diverse set of organizations across every corner of the state – working to encourage all Arkansans to get the COVID-19 vaccine and help end the pandemic.
The campaign, which launches in mid-March, will have two primary focuses: business-to-business engagement and hyper-local community engagement.
“AFMC is proud to once again partner with Arkansas Blue Cross and the Arkansas State Chamber,” added Ray Hanley, president and CEO, Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care (AFMC). “AFMC supports the Arkansas Department of Health and their vaccination efforts across the state. AFMC is the state’s designated quality improvement organization and we will work to promote and educate Arkansans on the importance of this vaccine.”
To support Arkansas’ business community, Arkansas Blue Cross is partnering with the Arkansas State Chamber and AFMC to provide objective information and educational resources, video modules, communication toolkits, and outreach to help guide businesses through the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine. Through this effort, business owners and leaders will be equipped to confidently lead their organizations as more COVID-19 vaccines are made available and be armed with the knowledge to guide their employees through the vaccination process and getting employees back to work.
“As we’ve done with many critical issues, our role will be to mobilize and educate local chambers of commerce across the state and help them reach out to the businesses and industries in their hometowns,” said Randy Zook, president and CEO, Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. “All of the chambers across Arkansas will be asking businesses to join the movement through the ‘Power Over Pandemic Pledge.’”
Through the Power Over Pandemic Pledge, business leaders commit to their organizations joining the Vaccinate the Natural State movement. The pledge reads:
As an Arkansas employer and business leader, I commit to helping fight COVID-19 and will do my part to end the pandemic. I pledge to:
- Lead by example by receiving the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as I am able,
- Strongly encourage all medically eligible employees and others in my organization to receive a COVID-19 vaccine,
- Provide the resources my associates need to make an informed decision in favor of being vaccinated, and
- Make receiving a vaccine as easy as possible for those in my organization.
We are all in this together and we must all work together to help end the pandemic.
Through Arkansas Blue Cross’ work with the Arkansas Minority Health Commission, the NWA Council, UAMS and Walmart, a public service and grassroots campaign will be launched to educate Arkansans on the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine and encourage them to receive the vaccine when it is available to them. Within this effort, a particular emphasis will be placed on rural, underserved communities and those with health disparities. In addition to education, this outreach will work toward getting vaccines to all communities.
“Arkansas Blue Cross is especially committed to addressing the health disparities of our state as they relate to the vaccine, at this critical time,” Creshelle Nash, M.D., M.P.H., Arkansas Blue Cross medical director for Public Programs and Utilization Management. “COVID-19 has uncovered and illuminated deep, long-term health and healthcare disparities, some more obvious than others, in our nation and here at home. We all have a responsibility to bridge the great disparity divides – racial, digital and healthcare access. Working together through Vaccinate the Natural State will take us a long way in that journey to end the COVID pandemic for our underserved communities now and begin to bring health equity to our state long-term.”
The state’s Minority Health Commission will be instrumental in the success of the Vaccinate the Natural State movement. Its role is to assure all minority Arkansans receive equitable access to preventive healthcare, including the COVID-19 vaccine.
“In the case of the COVID-19 vaccine, our commission will be focused on educating the minority populations in Arkansas and removing barriers they may have to receive the vaccines,” said ShaRhonda Love, director, Arkansas Minority Health Commission. “We want every Arkansan to have confidence that the vaccine is a personal first step in protecting themselves, their families and friends from this pandemic.”
The Northwest Arkansas Council is committed to preparing organizations to return to work through the vaccination of its workforces and – through the Council’s Healthcare Transformation Division – continue to ensure the Latinx and Pacific Islander communities receive this protective immunization.
“We are excited to have a role in this powerful collaboration of organizations working to better our state,” said Pearl McElfish, Ph.D., vice chancellor, UAMS Northwest Regional Campus and Northwest Arkansas Council representative. “We are prepared to do our part to end the pandemic and that means ensuring Arkansans understand the benefits of vaccination in a language they understand and have access to this preventive measure. Arkansas is a ‘community,’ and it will take everyone working together to be successful.”
Walmart will be supporting both the business and community engagement efforts of Vaccinate the Natural State as well.
“We’re committed to helping eligible Arkansans by administering vaccines in rural and underserved communities where it is most needed,” said Gerard Dehrmann, senior vice president of Public Affairs & State and Local Government Relations, Walmart. “It will take all of us working together to reach our neighbors in the furthermost areas of our state, and we are proud to help make it happen.”
To learn more about the Vaccinate the Natural State movement, visit VaccinateTheNaturalState.com.